Academic number fiddling

In his statement, Prof Stapel did not directly say what his motivations were. He said he had succumbed to competitive pressures and the need to publish. But he said \”it\’s important to me to underline that the mistakes I made weren\’t for selfish reasons.\”

The review panel noted Stapel had enjoyed a position of prestige as a professor and head of his department, and that he had access to subsidies and funding for his projects as a result of the academic fraud.

Of course, prestige, pay and funding just aren\’t selfish reasons, are they?

5 comments on “Academic number fiddling

  1. I have left my direct colleagues stunned and angry and put my field, social psychology, in a poor light.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Diederik, I don’t think social psychology could be any lower in most people’s eyes, I normally expect to find it on the heel of my shoe if there is a nasty whiff in the air.

  2. “In the future, the university plans to require raw data from studies to be preserved and made available to other researchers on request – a practice already common in most disciplines.”
    Just wondering. Can anyone think of another “science”, or even a “settled science”, where raw uncorrected data is routinely withheld?

  3. Faking data and destroying raw data is one problem. As prevalent as it is, a much greater problem is the shocking level of numeracy and understanding of probability – and its analysis through statistics – among academics in general. Experiments are repeated until the “correct” result is generated, “negative” results are discarded as outliers, repeats are added to the dataset if it doesn’t reach statistical significance within the expected number of repeats, and the best results are described as “representative”. All of this is done entirely innocently – which in some ways is worse than doing it deliberately.

  4. “But he said “it’s important to me to underline that the mistakes I made weren’t for selfish reasons.””

    Good for him. The problem is that, as Samuel Johnson once said, a man is rarely so innocently engaged as when making money. If his motives were mercenary we could understand. The damage would be likely to be small.

    The reality is that he probably did it for purely ideological reasons. If the 20th century teaches us anything (and needless to say it doesn’t), it is that ideological goals are worse than mercenary ones. He thinks it is a justification but actually it only means his offense was worse.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.